Unlocking the Power of Referrals: 6 Ways to Strengthen & Grow Your Connections

Referrals are essential in any business growth

Do you own a small business and struggle with ways to increase new client referrals? Unlocking the power of referrals is a common challenge for many small business owners.

Without a doubt, having a consistent and focused strategy to build your network of potential referrals is crucial to any business’s success. But what are the most effective ways to reach out and strengthen those connections?

The level of effectiveness of each action can differ based on the type of business you have. Do you sell a product or service? Are you selling directly to a consumer or providing business-to-business (B2B) services?

In my senior downsizing, online education, and coaching business, I serve multiple types of clients, both direct customers and business professionals. But I’ve found a lot of similarities in the strategies that I’ve employed where there’s common ground between both.  

So, if you work directly with customers via a service or product or serve a business community, the following 6 actions can apply.  

6 Actions You Can Take to Build Referrals

Understanding your customer’s needs and service preferences is key to a strong referral program.

1. Create referrals by understanding your customers’ values, service preferences, needs, and goals.

To develop any meaningful relationship, personal or business, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what they need, but also why they need it.

If you don’t understand what’s driving their desire for a solution you could be jeopardizing the trust you’re trying to build, as well as missing critical service opportunities.

People instinctively know when they are being “sold” on a product or service. If they don’t trust you, or feel you are just in it for the sale, you can kiss a long-standing referral relationship goodbye.  

So, take the time to genuinely listen, ask questions, and show that you are there for them, not only for today’s service opportunity but for the long term.

Be a source of tools and resources even if it doesn’t relate to your service

2. Actively Provide Information on Helpful Tools and Resources

Providing great service is essential. No one refers to a person or business who isn’t proficient. In a highly competitive world, though, customers remember the service providers or products that went beyond their expectations.   

Even if a tool or resource isn’t related to the service you’re providing, if it’s appropriate, take that extra step to research and provide helpful resource information to your clients. This is especially important if you sense they are feeling overwhelmed or confused.   

For instance, if you provide home organizing services, but a client is struggling to find an estate sale provider, have a list of trusted, vetted estate sale professionals at the ready. You not only help your client, you’ve just added another referral relationship opportunity to your strategy with the estate sale company.

Share their business information with others

3. Create Referral Opportunities By Sharing Their Information with Others

If you’re looking for ways to build referrals with another related service business, ask for a handful of cards or brochures that you can share with your clients, or other business professionals, during consults or networking meetings. 

In my industry, I’ve given out many business cards or brochures to clients for services like movers, retirement communities, estate sale professionals, home organizers with different service specialties, Realtors, and many more.

But don’t stop there. Let the person whose card you gave out know that they might be hearing from your client and why. It’s a great way to remind them that you’re working behind the scenes to support their business and allow them to be better prepared to receive the referral.

Provide invitations to relevant networking or educational events

4. Invite Them to a Networking or Special Education Event

Networking is often one of the most uncomfortable marketing activities for a small business owner. Sometimes attending an event with another professional you know can make it less intimidating.

For those who are new to networking, it can be helpful for you to share where and when networking events are being held that might be beneficial to their business. They’ll remember that you took the time to introduce them to new opportunities, and referrals are the best way for them to show that appreciation.

But networking events aren’t your only opportunity to share and build on connections. Find an educational event that a client (or professional) might benefit from and invite them to attend.

Examples include an invitation to a special seminar on senior downsizing (or whatever your business specialty is) that you are offering at a retirement community or senior center.

Other seminar options include topics on estate planning, dementia caregiver support, trust or end-of-life planning, and other topics. The point is that it should be something that directly addresses an issue that your client may be struggling with or interested in. 

There are many ways to collaborate with professionals in your referral program

5. Ask Them to Be a Contributor

A great way to support and encourage referrals from a professional relationship is to invite them to be a guest speaker at a forum you’re putting on, write a guest blog article for your website, or do a collaborative educational video that you can both share on social media.

If your business has a podcast, invite them to be a guest. Offer a special deal that’s only available to your listeners for a product or service they provide and don’t forget to promote it in pre-air marketing.

It goes a long way in highlighting their unique professional expertise, provides them with new business opportunities, and shows your support and appreciation for their business.

6. Create More Referrals Through a Private Networking Group

One of the hard lessons that I had to learn over the years was the ineffectiveness of going to large, generic networking group events where most of the attendees had no relationship to my client type or industry.

There were lots of great people there, many of whom thought my senior downsizing specialty was “desperately needed”. But in the end, I only got a trickle of referrals for a lot of time and energy.

Instead, I became a part of a smaller private networking group that was made up of professionals specifically serving the senior service community. A private networking group typically only allows one person per service specialty and consists of a wide range of service providers that share common clients. In my case, that was seniors and the greater senior living community.

For instance, my networking group included a Realtor, handyman, Medicare insurance specialist, mover, estate sale professional, house cleaners, in-home caregiver company, general contractor, and many others.

These types of groups offer a more intimate, trusted, and active relationship with your networking partners for things that your clients need regularly.

In addition, your group can offer specialty educational forums in your community. Select members can create a panel of experts who provide informative presentations on topics important to your clientele.

I speak more about this in my “Marketing and Branding Your Business” course available at The Downsizing Institute.

One Last Thought

When I look back at the clients and professional business relationships I’ve enjoyed over the past 15 years, there is a truism when it comes to earning consistent referrals.

When you genuinely care about the needs of those you serve and focus on building a trusting and supporting relationship with them, referrals will always be there to help your business grow and thrive.


P.S. Interested in learning more about how to incorporate senior downsizing as a stand-alone or adding it as a secondary service to an existing business? I offer a free 20-minute Q and A phone consult session with me where you can get the answers you need! Click here to schedule it today! For more course topic options click here.